After Rafales, AUKUS-snubbed France likely to offer its Leclerc Main Battle Tanks to India

The Indian Army had floated a Request for Information last year related to the supply of about 1,770 new tanks under the Future Ready Combat Vehicle programme

FP Staff January 05, 2022 16:39:02 IST

Last year, the Indian Army announced that it would procure over 1,700 Future Ready Combat Vehicles (FRCVs) in a phased manner under a strategic partnership route, with the induction of the next generation Main Battle Tank from 2030.

In the works for over a decade, the FRCV envisages the replacement of the Indian Army's fleet of Soviet-era T-72 tanks. The first of the new tanks are intended to enter service by 2030 and will feature advanced networking capabilities to communicate with both land and air forces.

According to a Request for Information (RFI) floated by the army, the 1,770 FRCVs will be procured along with transfer of technology, performance-based logistics, engineering support package, and other maintenance and training requirements.

The Indian government had issued RFIs to 12 companies including Russia, Israel, Europe, Turkey, the United States, and France in June of last year.

Following this, according to a report in Sputnik, Moscow has offered New Delhi to develop a new Indian combat tank on the basis of the Russian Armata platform.

The spokeswoman for Russia's Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, Valeria Reshetnikova, told Sputnik, "Taking into account Indian military plans on starting the development of a new combat tank, in the framework of a recently held Russian-Indian intergovernmental commission on military-technical cooperation and Russian-Indian summit, Indian counterparts were offered new directions of cooperation, including the development of armoured fighting vehicles based of the Armata platform and on customers' technical inquiries".

But reports have now surfaced that the Emmanuel Macron government has recently told the French Assembly that it will back a bid to export next-gen tanks to the Indian Army, according to a report by Hindustan Times.

The French government has stated that it would support state-owned weapons firm Nexter's proposal for India. In the Assembly, French leader Dupont-Aignan called for resuming the production of Nexter's Leclerc tanks. The French leader argued that if Nexter wins the contract, it would simply separate production lines for Leclerc tanks in France and India.

According to The Week, the Leclerc is lighter than most major Western tanks such as the US M1 Abrams, British Challenger and German Leopard 2, all of which weigh over 60 tonnes. Moreover, the Leclerc tanks of the French army are currently being upgraded to the Leclerc XLR standard, which would feature a modular armour package, new combat information system, radios, jammers and remotely operated machine gun.

Nexter is working on a futuristic tank project with Germany's Krauss Maffei Wegmann for a common tank to replace the Leclerc and Leopard 2, but the vehicles are unlikely to enter mass production by 2040. The French government's response in the National Assembly did not specify what kind of tank Nexter would offer to India.

France's enthusiasm to win this project is understandable not only because, as Dupont-Aignan pointed out, it would allow the possibility of sharing with India the cost of developing specialised versions of the Leclerc for purposes such as command vehicle, artillery platform and anti-aircraft defence, but also help it salvage it reputation following the AUKUS row.

Last year, Australia withdrew from a $66 billion deal to buy French-built submarines, as it signed the AUKUS pact with the US and UK who would in turn provide it with technology and capability to develop nuclear-powered submarine.

With input from agencies

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